Connecticut gunman was top student, but 'troubled'

(France24) The 20-year-old man suspected of killing more than two dozen people at a school in the US state of Connecticut had been an honours student who earned top marks and lived in a prosperous neighbourhood with his mother, a well-liked woman who enjoyed hosting dice games and decorating the house for the holidays.

According to US media reports, Adam Lanza killed his mother at their home before driving her car to Sandy Hook Elementary School and -- armed with at least two handguns -- killed 26 people, including 20 children, before taking his own life. A third weapon, a .223-calibre rifle, was found in the car and more guns were found inside the school.

Police Lieutenant Paul Vance said at a press conference on Saturday that Lanza had forced his way into the school and that investigators were making progress in their quest for answers, saying some “very good evidence” had been uncovered that authorities “will be able to use in, hopefully, painting a complete picture as to how, and more importantly why, this occurred”.

Investigators were trying to learn as much as possible about Lanza but authorities have so far not spoken publicly of any possible motive. They found no note or manifesto and Lanza had no criminal history, but he may have suffered from a personality disorder, law enforcement officials said.

Witnesses said the shooter did not utter a word.

Lanza attended Newtown High School and several local news clippings from recent years mention his name among the school’s honour roll students.

Lanza’s aunt said her nephew was raised by kind, nurturing parents who would not have hesitated to seek mental help for him if he needed it.

Marsha Lanza said she was close with Adam Lanza’s mother and sent her a Facebook message Friday morning asking how she was doing. Nancy Lanza never responded.

Marsha described Nancy as a good mother and kindhearted. If her son had needed counseling, “Nancy wasn’t one to deny reality,” she told The Associated Press late Friday.

Marsha Lanza said her husband saw Adam in June and recalled nothing out of the ordinary about him.

Catherine Urso, who was attending a vigil Friday evening in Newtown, Connecticut, said her college-age son knew the killer and remembered him for his alternative style.

"He just said he was very thin, very remote and was one of the goths," she said.

'Obviously not well'

Adam Lanza belonged to a technology club at Newtown High School that held "LAN parties" -- an acronym for local area network -- in which students would gather at a member’s home, hook up their computers to a network and play games.

Gloria Milas, whose son Joshua was in the club with Lanza, hosted one of the parties.

She recalled a school meeting in 2008 organised by the Lanza’s mother to try to save the job of the club’s adviser. At the meeting, Adam Lanza’s brother Ryan said a few words in support of the adviser, who he said had taken his brother under his wing.

"My brother has always been a nerd," Ryan Lanza then said, according to Milas. "He still wears a pocket protector."

Joshua Milas, who graduated from Newtown High School in 2009, said Adam was generally a happy person but that he hadn’t seen him in a few years.

"We would hang out, and he was a good kid. He was smart," Joshua Milas said. "He was probably one of the smartest kids I know. He was probably a genius."

According to the New York Times, former high school classmates recalled someone who was "uncomfortable" in social situations. "If you looked at him, you couldn’t see any emotions going through his head," said one.

"I think that maybe he wasn’t given the right kind of attention or help," said another former classmate, Olivia DeVivo. "I think he went so unnoticed that people didn’t even stop to realise that maybe there’s actually something else going on here -- that maybe he needs to be talking or getting some kind of mental help."

After reconnecting with friends from Newtown she told the newspaper, "They weren’t surprised. They said he always seemed like he was someone who was capable of that because he just didn’t really connect with our high school, and didn’t really connect with our town."

Family friends and relatives told the ABC network that Lanza was "troubled" and "obviously not well". Adam "was not connected with the other kids", said Barbara Frey, adding that he was "a little bit different ... kind of repressed".

Lanza and his mother, Nancy, lived in a well-to-do part of Newtown, a prosperous community of 27,000 people about 60 miles (95 kilometres) northeast of New York City.

The suspect's grandmother and the mother of Nancy Lanza was too distraught to speak when the Associated Press reached her by phone at her home in Brooksville, Florida.

"I just don’t know, and I can’t make a comment right now," Dorothy Hanson, 78, said in a shaky voice as she started to cry. She said she hadn’t heard anything official about her daughter and grandsons. She declined to comment further and hung up.

A law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said investigators believe Lanza attended the school several years ago but appeared to have no recent connection to the place.

At least one parent said Lanza’s mother was a substitute teacher there, but her name did not appear on a staff list. And the law enforcement official said investigators were unable to establish any connection so far between her and the school.

Adam Lanza’s older brother, Ryan Lanza, 24 years of age and living in Hoboken, New Jersey, was being questioned, a law enforcement official said. He told authorities that his brother was thought to suffer from a personality disorder, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the record about the investigation.

The official did not elaborate on what type of disorder Adam Lanza might have had.

Identification belonging to Ryan was found at the scene of the crime, which first led police to believe he had committed the shooting.

Ryan Lanza has been extremely cooperative and was not under arrest or in custody, but investigators were searching his computers and phone records.

Ryan Lanza told law enforcement that he had not been in touch with his brother since about 2010.

Lanza works as a senior tax employee with Ernst & Young and has worked at the accounting firm for four years, with sources describing him as "clean as a whistle".

Brett Wilshe, a friend of Ryan Lanza’s, said he sent him a Facebook message Friday asking what was going on and if he was OK. According to Wilshe, Lanza’s reply was something along the lines of: "It was my brother. I think my mother is dead. Oh my God."

Lanza’s parents filed for divorce in 2008, according to court records. His father, Peter Lanza, lives in Stamford, Connecticut, according to public records, and he reportedly works as a tax director for General Electric.

A neighbor in Newtown, Rhonda Cullens, said she knew Nancy Lanza from monthly get-togethers the neighborhood women had a few years back for games of bunco, a dice game.

"She was a very nice lady," Cullens said. "She was just like all the rest of us in the neighbourhood, just a regular person."

Cullens recalled that Lanza liked to garden and to make her house look nice for the holidays. Lanza joked, though, that no one noticed because the house was out of view up on a hill, she said.

Sandeep Kapur, who lives two doors down from the Lanza family in Newtown, said he did not know them and was unaware of any disturbances at the Lanza house in the three years that he and his family have been in the neighbourhood.

He described the area as a subdivision of well-tended, 15-year-old homes on lots of an acre or more, where many people work at companies like General Electric, Pepsi and IBM. Some are doctors, and his next-door neighbour is a bank CEO, said Kapur, a project manager at an information technology firm.

"The neighbourhood’s great. We have young kids, and they have lots of friends," he said. "If you drive past this neighbourhood, it gives you a really warm feeling."

- FRANCE24.com


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